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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Long Island Rail Road Company

System map

LIRR sampler electric and diesel services.jpg
The Long Island Rail Road provides electric and diesel rail service east-west throughout Long Island, New York.
Reporting mark LI
Locale Long Island, New York
Dates of operation 1834–present
(PRR-operated from 1928 to 1949)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) Standard gauge
Headquarters Jamaica Railroad Station
Jamaica, NY 11435

The Long Island Rail Road (reporting mark LI) or LIRR is a commuter rail system serving the length of Long Island, New York that has been classified as a Class II railroad by the Surface Transportation Board.[1] It is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, servicing around 81 million passengers each year, and the oldest US railroad still operating under its original name and charter.[2] There are 124 stations on the LIRR, and more than 700 miles (1,100 km) of track[3] on its two lines to the two forks of the island and eight major branches. Each weekday, the LIRR provides more than 303,000 rides to customers.[4] It is publicly owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has styled it MTA Long Island Rail Road.

On May 17, 2007, Long Island Rail Road was awarded a Bronze E. H. Harriman Award for its safety record in 2006.[5] The current LIRR logo combines the circular MTA logo with the text "Long Island Rail Road", and appears on the sides of trains.

The LIRR is the only commuter passenger railroad in the United States to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with significant off peak, weekend, and holiday service.



The Long Island Rail Road Company was originally chartered in 1834 to provide a daily train service between New York and Boston via a ferry connection between its Greenport, New York terminal on Long Island's North Fork and Stonington, Connecticut. This service was superseded in 1849 by an all land route through Connecticut, that was to become part of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford Railroad. The LIRR refocused its attentions towards servicing Long Island itself, in competition with other railroads on the island. In the 1870s, railroad president Conrad Poppenhusen and his successor Austin Corbin acquired all the railroads and consolidated them into the LIRR.

Throughout much of its history, the LIRR was a money loser; however, in 1900 the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) purchased a controlling interest, as part of a joint plan to provide direct access to Manhattan which commenced on September 8, 1910. The wealthy PRR subsidized the LIRR during the first half of the new century, allowing much expansion and modernization.

By the end of the Second World War, however, the downturn in the railroad industry and dwindling profits caused the PRR to relinquish the LIRR from its payroll. The bankrupt LIRR went into receivership in 1949. The State of New York, realizing how important the railroad was to the future of Long Island, began to subsidize the railroad gradually throughout the 1950s and 60s. In 1966, New York State bought the railroad's controlling stock from the PRR and put it under the newly formed Metropolitan Transportation Authority. With MTA subsidies, the LIRR modernized further and grew into the busiest commuter railroad in the United States.

The LIRR is one of the few railroads that has survived as an intact company from its original charter to the present day.[2]

Major stations

The LIRR operates out of three western terminals located in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Jamaica Station, located in central Queens, is the hub of all railroad activities. Currently expansion of the system into Grand Central Terminal is anticipated over the next few years.

LIRR connecting concourse at Penn Station

Pennsylvania Station

Pennsylvania Station, in Midtown Manhattan, is the busiest of the LIRR's three western terminals, serving almost 500 daily trains.[3] It is reached via the Amtrak-owned East River Tunnels (the only LIRR-used trackage not owned by the LIRR) from the Main Line in Long Island City. The New York City Subway's 34th Street–Penn Station (IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line) and 34th Street–Penn Station (IND Eighth Avenue Line) stations are located next to the terminal.

Flatbush Avenue

Flatbush Avenue, also known as Atlantic Terminal in Downtown Brooklyn serves most other trains.[3] It is located next to the New York City Subway's Atlantic Avenue–Pacific Street station complex, providing easy access to Lower Manhattan.

Hunterspoint Avenue and Long Island City

Long Island City station and yard.

A handful of daily trains run to Hunterspoint Avenue or beyond to Long Island City on the East River in Long Island City.[3] From Hunterspoint Avenue, the Hunters Point Avenue (IRT Flushing Line) subway station can be reached for Midtown Manhattan access.

Jamaica Station

Platforms at Jamaica

Jamaica Station is a major station and transfer point in Jamaica, Queens. Jamaica encompasses eight tracks and six platforms, plus yard and bypass tracks(see image at right). At Jamaica, passengers can transfer between trains on all LIRR lines except the Port Washington Branch, leading to the saying echoed by generations of LIRR Conductors "Change at Jamaica."[3] Transfer is also made to separate facilities for three different subway lines (at the Sutphin Boulevard–Archer Avenue–JFK station), a number of bus routes, and the AirTrain automated electric rail system to JFK Airport.[6] The railroad's headquarters are located adjacent to the station.[7]

Grand Central Terminal

Access to a fourth major terminal is currently under construction. In 2013 the LIRR intends to initiate service to Grand Central Terminal via the East Side Access project; provision was made for this route on the lower level of the 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River, which currently carries the IND 63rd Street Line (F Train) of the New York City Subway on its upper level. Construction of the East Side Access project will reduce congestion during rush hour times as well as increase the number of trains operating during peak hours.[8][9]

Passenger lines and services

Schematic of services
LIRR M-7 train moves through a grade crossing

The Long Island Rail Road system is made up of eleven passenger branches. Two main trunk lines, the Main Line and Montauk Branches, spin off nine smaller branches. For scheduling and advertising purposes some of these branches are further divided into sections such as the case with the Montauk Branch, which is known as the Babylon Branch service in the electrified portion of the line between Jamaica and Babylon, while the diesel service beyond Babylon to Montauk is referred to as Montauk Branch service. All service, with the exception of the Port Washington Branch, pass through Jamaica; the trackage west of Jamaica (except to Port Washington) is known as the City Terminal Zone. The City Terminal Zone includes portions of the Main Line and Atlantic and Montauk Branches, as well as the Amtrak-owned East River Tunnels to Penn Station.

Main Line

The Main Line runs from Long Island City east to Greenport; trains using the East River Tunnels from New York Penn Station join the line at Sunnyside Yard. It is electrified west of Ronkonkoma; limited diesel train service runs from this point to Yaphank, Riverhead or Greenport. The services that run along this line are named after the branches they use; trains beyond Hicksville (where the Port Jefferson Branch splits), are known as Ronkonkoma Branch and the Greenport Branch trains.

Montauk Branch

The Montauk Branch runs from Long Island City to Montauk, meeting the Main Line at Long Island City and Jamaica. It is electrified from Jamaica east to Babylon; only diesel trains use the "Lower Montauk" section west of Jamaica or the outer section east of Babylon. Only trains east of Babylon are considered part of the Montauk Branch service; the line from Lynbrook to Babylon carries Babylon Branch trains.

Atlantic Branch

The electrified Atlantic Branch runs from Downtown Brooklyn east to Jamaica, where it meets the Main Line, and then heads southeast to end at the Montauk Branch at Valley Stream. East of Valley Stream the Far Rockaway Branch turns south, while the West Hempstead Branch turns northward.

Port Washington Branch

The electrified Port Washington Branch, the only one that doesn't serve Jamaica, branches from the Main Line east of Woodside and heads east and northeast to Port Washington.

Port Jefferson Branch

The Port Jefferson Branch branches from the Main Line at Hicksville, with electric service to Huntington and diesel service to Port Jefferson. Until 1938, it continued east to Wading River.[10]

Hempstead Branch

The electrified Hempstead Branch branches from the Main Line east of Queens Village (does not curve away from Main Line until Floral Park) and runs east to Hempstead. At Garden City, the Garden City-Mitchel Field Secondary curves off and goes to Mitchel Field.

West Hempstead Branch

The electrified West Hempstead Branch branches from the Montauk Branch at Valley Stream and runs northeast to West Hempstead, originally continuing to junction the Hempstead Branch and the Oyster Bay Branch at the Main Line.

Oyster Bay Branch

The Oyster Bay Branch splits from the Main Line at Mineola and heads north and east to Oyster Bay. The first section to East Williston is electrified; only diesel trains run along the majority of the line to Oyster Bay.

Central Branch

The diesel Central Branch runs southeast from the Main Line at Bethpage to the Montauk Branch at Babylon, giving an alternate route to the Montauk Branch east of Babylon. The Central Branch used to continue west from Bethpage to what include is now the Garden City–Mitchel Field Secondary

C3 Bi-level coaches at grade crossing in Bethpage.

Far Rockaway Branch

The electrified Far Rockaway Branch splits from the Atlantic Branch at Valley Stream and runs south and southwest to Far Rockaway. It used to continue west along what is now the New York City Subway's IND Rockaway Line to Hammels and Rockaway Park.

Long Beach Branch

The electrified Long Beach Branch splits from the Atlantic Branch at Valley Stream but does not curve away from the Babylon Branch until just after the Lynbrook station, where it turns south to end at Long Beach.


Former branches

In addition the railroad has abandoned a number of branches due to lack of ridership over the years. Some of these lines have been either sold off to the New York City Subway, while others have been downgraded to freight branches, and the rest just outright abandoned.

Additional services

In addition to its daily commuter patronage, the LIRR also offers the following services:

The railroad runs daily Belmont Park race trains during the racetrack's Spring and Fall meets, with a heavy service on the day of the famed Belmont Stakes race.

From April to October the railroad runs an extensive number of extra trains between Woodside and Mets-Willets Point (formerly Shea Stadium) station to service those passengers traveling to see the New York Mets home games.

Between May and October the railroad runs The Cannonball, a special express train between Hunterspoint Avenue in Queens and Montauk. It's one of the few named trains run by a commuter railroad. A hallmark of the Cannonball is its offering of Parlor Cars, all reserved seating with full bar service. In addition during the winter months the railroad runs an unnamed train that follows the Cannonball schedule without Parlor Car service.

The railroad also operates during the summer season extra trains that cater to the Long Island beach trade. Special package ticket deals are offered to places like Long Beach, Jones Beach, the Hamptons, Montauk, and Greenport. Some of these packages require bus and ferry connections.

One special non-passenger service offered by the railroad is the yearly operation of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus train between Long Island City and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Garden City. However, the LIRR highly publicizes this event which draws large crowds of spectators.

Fare structure

The LIRR, like Metro North, and New Jersey Transit, has a fare system that is based on the distance a passenger travels, as opposed to the New York City Subway which has a flat rate throughout the entire system. The railroad is broken up in to eight numbered fare zones. Zone 1 includes all of the city terminals and stations west of Jamaica. Zone 3 includes Jamaica and all stations east of Jamaica within the boundaries of New York City, except Far Rockaway. Zones 4 and 7 include all the stations in Nassau County. Zones 9, 10, 12, and 14 includes all the stations in Suffolk County. Each zone contains many stations, and the same fare applies for travel between any station in the origin zone and any station in the destination zone.

Peak fares are charged during the week on trains that arrive at western terminals between the hours of 6 am and 10 am, and for trains that depart from western terminals between the hours of 4 pm and 8 pm. Any passenger holding an off peak ticket on a peak train is required to pay a step up fee. Passengers have the options of buying tickets from ticket agents or ticket vending machines (TVMs) or on the train from railroad conductors yet will incur an on-board penalty fee for doing so. This fee is waived for senior citizens and disabled passengers and also for passengers who board from stations where there are no ticket offices or TVMs.

There are several types of tickets that a passenger can buy: one way, round trip, peak, off-peak, AM peak or off-peak senior/citizen disabled, peak child, and off-peak child. On off-peak trains, passengers can buy a family ticket for children who are accompanied by a 18 year old for $0.75 if bought from the station agent or TVM, $1.00 if bought on the train from the conductor. Additionally senior citizen/disabled passengers traveling during the morning peak hours are required to pay the AM peak senior citizen/disabled rate. This rate is not charged during PM peak hours.

Daily commuters can also buy a peak or off-peak ten trip ride, a weekly unlimited or an unlimited monthly pass. Monthly passes are good on any train regardless of the time of day, but are only valid within the fare zones specified on the pass.

On weekends the railroad offers a special reduced-fare CityTicket for those passengers who travel within Zones 1 and 3. City Tickets can only be bought from ticket agents or machines.

During the summer season the railroad offers special summer package ticket deals to places such as Long Beach, Jones Beach, the Hamptons, Montauk, and Greenport. Passengers traveling to the Hamptons and Montauk on the Cannonball also have the option of buying a reserved ticket to sit in one of the train's all-reserved Parlor Cars. However, the LIRR suggests that these tickets be booked in advanced based on limited availability.

Train operations

The LIRR runs relatively isolated from the rest of the national rail system. In only two locations does the railroad interact with other railroads:

West of Harold Interlocking in Sunnyside, Queens LIRR trains enter Amtrak territory leading to the East River Tunnels.

In Glendale, Queens the LIRR interacts with CSX’s Fremont Secondary, which leads to the Hell Gate Bridge and New England, however, once trains leave the secondary they enter LIRR territory and fall under the guidance of the LIRR Book of Rules.

All movements on the LIRR fall under the control of the Movement Bureau headquartered in Jamaica, which divvy out orders to the various train towers that control a specific portion of the railroad. Movements in Amtrak territory fall under the governance of Penn Station Central Control or PSCC, which is run jointly by the LIRR and Amtrak.

Power transmission

The LIRR's electrified lines are exclusively powered by 650 V DC third rail with the contact shoe running along the top of the rail, similar to the New York City Subway and PATH trains. In comparison, Metro-North Railroad uses a combination of under-running third rail and overhead catenary wires for its electrified trackage. New Jersey Transit's electrified rail lines are powered by overhead catenary wires.


The LIRR currently operates an electric fleet of 836 M7 and 170 M3 electric multiple unit cars, and 134 C3 bilevel rail cars powered by 23 DE30AC diesel-electric locomotives and 22 DM30AC dual-mode locomotives. [11]

Freight service

The freight-only Bay Ridge Branch runs through Brooklyn.

The LIRR and other railroads that became part of the system have always had freight service, though this has diminished over the years. The process of shedding freight service accelerated with the acquisition of the railroad by New York State.

In recent years there has been some appreciation of the need for better railroad freight service in New York City and elsewhere on Long Island. Both areas are primarily served by trucking for freight haulage, an irony in a region with the most extensive rail transit service in the Americas as well as the worst traffic conditions. Proposals for a Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel for freight have languished more than a century.

In May 1997, freight service was franchised on a 20-year term to the New York and Atlantic Railway (NYAR), a short line railroad owned by the Anacostia and Pacific Company.[12] It has its own equipment and crews, but uses the rail facilities of the LIRR. To the east, freight service operates to the ends of the West Hempstead, Port Jefferson branches, to Bridgehampton on the Montauk branch, and to Riverhead on the Mainline. On the western end it provides service on the surviving freight-only tracks of the LIRR: the Bay Ridge and Bushwick branches; the nearly freight-only "Lower Montauk"; and to an interchange connection at Fresh Pond Junction in Queens with the CSX, Canadian Pacific, and Providence and Worcester railroads.

Freight branches

Some non-electrified lines are only used for freight.

The Garden City-Mitchel Field Secondary is a short remnant of the Central Branch that splits from the Hempstead Branch at Garden City, running to Uniondale near Hofstra University and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. This branch does not host any NYAR service.

The Bushwick Branch runs west from the Montauk Branch at Maspeth to Bushwick Terminal. This was originally was a passenger branch until the discontinuance of service in 1924.

The Bay Ridge Branch runs south and west from the Montauk Branch at Fresh Pond to Bay Ridge. At Fresh Pond, it meets CSX's Fremont Secondary, which goes over the Hell Gate Bridge towards Upstate New York and New England. This branch to also ran a passenger service until 1924.

Planned service expansions

Besides the long anticipated Eastside Access project, the LIRR has several other planned service expansions such as:

Third Main Line Track and electrification expansions

In conjunction with the commencement of service to Grand Central Terminal, the LIRR is in the planning stages of adding a third track on the Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville which will aid in relieving the crowding on the Main Line which is expected to grow after the East Side Access project is complete. It also includes the elimination of grade crossings. This project has drawn concern in adjoining communities about the effects of the construction and eventual increase in service.

The railroad is also actively pursuing adding a second track along the Main Line between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma to relieve the crowding on that portion of the Main Line (currently there is only one track with passing sidings between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma.) If these projects are carried out the LIRR plans to extend electrification towards Yaphank in order to build a new yard facility to store MU trains. Stations on this portion of the Main Line were modified in the late 1990s for future electrification.

Lower Manhattan-Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project,

The Lower Manhattan-Jamaica/JFK Transportation Project would expand the Atlantic Branch from Flatbush Avenue to a new terminal near the PATH station at the former World Trade Center site. This project would include an expansion of the Air Train to Lower Manhattan. As of 2008 this project has received low priority.

Central Branch Electrification

Electrification of the Central Branch is also planned. This would reduce congestion on the Montauk Branch and allow for electric trains coming from Babylon to have an alternative route into Jamaica. Rail ties along this branch have been replaced over the years in anticipation of this service.

Port Jefferson and Montauk Branch Electrification

Expansion of electrification to Port Jefferson and to Patchogue and Speonk on the Montauk Branch, two diesel branches that have a significant commuter service, have also been planned over the years. However, as recently as 2008 Newsday reported that, although electrification to Port Jefferson - and the building of an electric yard there - is desirable, the recent financial troubles of the MTA will likely delay this type of project for a few years. Additionally there are mixed feelings in the area about the side effects of an increased service.

Passenger issues

The LIRR has a long history of rocky relations with its passengers,[13] especially daily commuters.[14] Various commuter advocacy groups have been formed to try to represent those interests, in addition to the state mandated LIRR Commuters Council.

One criticism of the LIRR is that the railroad has not improved service to the "east end" of Long Island as the twin forks continue to grow in popularity as a year round tourist and residential destination. Demand is evidenced by flourishing for-profit bus services such as the Hampton Jitney and the Hampton Luxury Liner and the early formative stages of a new East End Transportation Authority. Local politicians have joined the public outcry for the LIRR to either improve the frequency of east end services, or turn the operation over to a local transportation authority.

Critics claim that the On-time performance (OTP) calculated by the LIRR is manipulated to be artificially high. Because the LIRR does not release any raw timing data nor do they have independent (non-MTA) audits it is impossible to verify this claim, or the accuracy of the current On Time Performance measurement. The "percentage" measure is used by many other US passenger railroads but the criticism over accuracy is specific to the LIRR. As defined by the LIRR, a train is "on time" if it arrives at a station within 5 minutes and 59 seconds of the scheduled time.[15] The criterion was 4 minutes and 59 seconds until the LIRR changed it because of a bug in their computer systems.[16] Critics[17] believe the OTP measure does not reflect what commuters experience on a daily basis. The LIRR publishes the current OTP in a monthly booklet called TrainTalk. TrainTalk was previously known as "Keeping Track."

A more accurate way to measure delays and OTP has been proposed to the LIRR.[18] Called the "Passenger Hours Delayed" index it can measure total person-hours of a specific delay. This would be useful in comparing performance of specific days or incidents, day-to-day (or week-to-week) periods, something the current measure cannot do. This 'PHD' index measure is used by some transportation research organizations and would be more meaningful to commuters. As of July 2009 it has not been adopted. The two methods are not mutually exclusive and could be kept and published simultaneously.

2007 ridership was 86.1 million, up 4.9% over 2006. The all time highest ridership was 91.8 million in 1949.[19]

Law enforcement

The former LIRR Police Department, which was founded in 1863, was absorbed along with the Metro-North Railroad Police to form the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police (MTA Police) in 1998.

Allegation of pension and disability fraud

As a result of a New York Times investigation into alleged abuses of pension and disability payments to retirees of the Long Island Rail Road, Railroad Retirement Agents from Chicago inspected the Long Island office of the Railroad Retirement Board on September 23, 2008. New York Governor David Paterson issued a statement calling for Congress to conduct a full review of the Board's mission and daily activities. Officials at the Board's headquarters in Chicago responded to the investigation stating that all Occupational Disability annuities were issued in accordance with applicable laws.[20] On November 17, 2008, former LIRR pension manager Frederick S. Kreuder was arrested and charged with official misconduct for assisting railroad employees in filing disability claims in exchange for money while on company pay.[21]All charges of corruption and official misconduct were dismissed by Supreme Court Judge Kase on December 11, 2009[22], who stated the the prosecution had mislead the Grand Jury in the indictment.

A report produced in September 2009 by the U. S. Government Accountability Office [23] disclosed that five federal agencies which investigated and audited the disability awards found no evidence of fraud or wrongdoing by either the Railroad Retirement Board or the retirees who applied for those awards.

See also


  2. ^ a b [1] retrieved 20 October 2009
  3. ^ a b c d e About the MTA Long Island Rail Road
  4. ^ Long Island Rail Road statistics
  5. ^ Association of American Railroads (2007-05-17). "Railroad Employees Post Safest Year Ever in 2006". Press release. Retrieved 2007-05-18.  
  6. ^ LIRR: Jamaica
  7. ^ MTA LIRR - Employment Opportunities (includes mailing address)
  8. ^ MTA Capital Construction - East Side Access
  9. ^ U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Transportation Secretary Signs Record $2.6 Billion Agreement to Fund New Tunnel Network To Give Long Island Commuters Direct Access to Grand Central Station, December 18, 2006
  10. ^ Ron Ziel and George H. Foster, Steel Rails to the Sunrise, ©1965
  11. ^ Consultant's assessment of the LIRR, Page 21
  12. ^ Steinberg, Carol (January 31, 1999). "Bygone Era's Revival: Hauling Goods by Rail". New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009.  
  13. ^ Maloney, Jennifer; Schuster, Karla (January 19, 2007). "The Gap What We Found, Thirty Years of Neglect". Newsday.  
  14. ^ Halbfinger, David M. (July 30, 1999). "The Long Island Rail Road: Busiest, but Far From Best". New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009.  
  15. ^ LIRR, - LIRR OTP
  16. ^ LIRR Commuters Campaign, - LIRR On Time Performance questions
  17. ^ LIRR Commuters Campaign, - LIRR Commuters Campaign
  18. ^ LIRR Commuters Campaign, - New OTP Proposal
  19. ^ "LIRR, AirTrain, Tri-Rail Note Higher Annual or Daily Passenger Counts". Progressive Railroading. February 8, 2008. Retrieved September 15, 2009.  
  20. ^ Bogdanich, Walt; Wilson, Duff (September 23, 2008). "Agents Raid Office in L.I.R.R. Disability Inquiry". New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009.  
  21. ^ Wilson, Duff (November 17, 2008). "Ex-Manager Charged in L.I.R.R. Disability Probe". New York Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009.  
  22. ^ Judge dismisses most charges against LIRR officialNewsday, December 11, 1009
  23. ^ [ Railroad Retirement Board: Review of Commuter Railroad Occupational Disability Claims] retrieved 17 October 2009

External links


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